Could anyone imagine Bud Rowley anywhere but out on or near a football field? Perhaps a beautiful, picturesque golf course, with ponds and a winding river next to a hill or a mountain.
“Naaah,” laughed Rowley on the eve of prep football practice starting.
Bud Rowley coaches high school football. Oxford Wildcats football to be exact. It’s something that he never lets anyone forget.
“This is what I do. I’m a high school football coach. I coach Oxford football,” beamed Rowley. “I don’t golf. This is what I do.”
Rowley has been coaching football for 38 years now, 36 non-consecutive years at Oxford. He’s coached so long as parents of his current team might not have been born yet. In fact, he might have coached some of them.
“I’ve coached a lot of kids at Oxford,” laughed the coach. “It’s the greatest sport in the world.”
Watching his players run through drills at a recent preseason practice, many of them sporting T-Shirts showcasing the phrase “Pound The Rock,” Rowley wears a smirk. He’s not bashful to tell his players what he thinks about their technique, their heart, their effort.
That’s just how the veteran is, directing his troops.
Oxford has always been a run-oriented football team. There’s no secret there. It’s a Bud Rowley-trademark. And for nearly four decades, it works more often than not.
Oxford finished 7-3 last season, tied for second in the deep and talented Oakland Activities Association White Division and reached the postseason for the 17th time in 23 years. The Wildcats even reached as high as No. 7 in the Associated Press Division 2 state polls.
From1982 through 2009, Oxford posted winning seasons. That was 28 straight until it came to a half in 2010. The Wildcats stumbled to a 3-6 overall mark that season.
Few high school programs in Michigan’s history can ever come close to that kind of mark, going nearly three decades without a losing season.
In an era where teams are using multiple kinds of flashy offensive schemes, Rowley stick with what he knows best: Old-school, smash mouth football where runs plays dominate and wins pile up.
“That’s how we do it,” snarled Rowley, who in 2010 became a charter member of Oxford’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
Last season was one of Rowley’s crowning moments. A coach that has produced legions of college prospects, including a trio of NFL players, the veteran watched running back-linebacker Prescott Line win the prestigious Mr. Football Award 2011.
“That’s never happened before,” laughed Rowley. “It’s not like were like (Farmington) Harrison and (Birmingham) Brother Rice with all of their great players. We’re Oxford. I’ve never coached a (Mr. Football) before.”
Rowley referred to perhaps the two greatest coaches in Michigan history, Harrison’s John Herrington and Brother Rice’s Al Fracassa. Those programs stand above all in Michigan prep lore.
Oxford is not too shabby, either.
Rowley has seen his players excel at other sports. Track and field and wrestling mostly, although his players have often been found on the basketball court or baseball diamond, or in recent years back on the football field suiting up for the Wildcats lacrosse team. He is always quick to welcome a soccer player to be kicker or punter.
Oxford won a state title in track back in 1991 with several standout football players on that team. Oxford’s wrestling team has been to the Final Four six times, including the past four years. The 2011 squad won the Division 1 state title. Several of those matmen were also members of Oxford’s football team.
Rowley can often be found in the stands for other sports. He bleeds Oxford blue and yellow.
NO SUNSET JUST YET
Coach Rowley never is full of words. He says what he feels and then moves on, never sugarcoating a defeat or mistake and never lamenting on how great his teams or players are in reality.
He lives for the moment, which is Fridays in the late summer or autumn months. He struts out onto the field on game nights, wearing his trademark yellow pants with his troops following stride-for-stride. They are always ready to walk onto the field of battle like soldiers back during the Civil War. His players are willing to lay down their lives for the general, who ranks among the top 50 coaches all-time in state history with a 228-110-1 career record. There is no fear allowed for those who dare become Oxford football players.
Rowley is more out of a scene of a Hollywood movie portraying high school football than a modern-day football coach, who has plenty of public relations skills and is ready to talk up a storm about his players and what they have accomplished at various camps and combines.
Although he often wears a scowl, Coach Rowley cares for his team, players and the community of Oxford that few can rival.
Football is king in his eyes and the town folk of Oxford adore the man who has led the Wildcats football team to a total of four Final Four appearances in school history, including the only state championship in 1992. The Wildcats also finished as the state runner-up in both 1990 and 1993 and reached the state semifinals in 1998.
Could there be more great success in the future? Rowley does not plan on going anywhere, anytime soon.
“What do you think I would do? Golf?” begged Rowley again.
“I’m a high school football coach” continued Rowley. “I coach Oxford football. I don’t golf. This is what I do.”
(Dan Stickradt is senior editor for digital daily www.northoaklandsports.com and print publication The Real Deal sports and coupons magazine. He is also a freelance writer for multiple print and online publications. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. Follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/wwwnorthoaklandsportscom-Stickradt-Media-Group/143149785699685 and Twitter @LocalSportsFans)